A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook today about Barnes & Noble supporting No Name-Calling Week. As a mother of two school-aged kids, and one that will be there soon enough, I am glad that bullying has come to the forefront of "awarenesses." (Though I am definitely sad that its taken recent suicides of our innocent youth to bring it forth.)
My 9 year old son, fortunately, has not been bullied or harrassed much throughout his first 3 1/2 years. And he has been "above" the bullying and hasn't done it himself either. (I would have some serious words with him if he ever did!)
However, my 6 year old daughter hasn't been nearly as lucky. She has been on the recieving end of a lot of bullying this year. Within the first few days, she was picked on because some boys saw her undies showing when she was playing on the playground in a dress. It then escalated to other names and issues. The most serious things happened on the bus (which I won't go into here, but is you know me and ask me privately, I will fill you in); things that would concern any parent, especially a parent of a 6 year old daughter. It is heartbreaking to hear her stories of the things kids are saying and doing to her and her friends. Its not nice, and its undeserved.
Those of previous generations chalk it up to "kids being kids," but its a different world we live in now. Kids know more, they see more, they hear more, the experience more, and therefore they repeat more. Far too many kids are entering a battlefield when they walk through their school's doors. Its not just "kids being kids" anymore. Its kids being mean-spirited and venomous with their words and actions. They tear down others' worth and think its perfectly fine, or even worse, funny.
"Sticks and stones break bones but words never hurt" is false. Words DO hurt! They aren't black eyes from schoolyard brawls that will heal with time and some help from a frozen steak. They are wounds nobody can see that no amount of time or frozen steak can heal. They are the black eyes of the soul, so to speak.
What is happening, I think, it a lack of tolerance and acceptance of others' differences. There is nothing wrong with a child having poofy hair, learning disabilities, creative flair, being shy....or any other difference. I realize that in a school its all about fitting into the "norm," that which society has deemed "perfect." But the problem is, everyone is human, everyone is flawed, and everyone has something about themself that others find odd.
Take me and some of my friends/school peers. In elementary school, I was the emotional one who cried at the drop of a hat. My friend, Jennifer, had mile-high poofy hair and a loud laugh. My friend, Karin, was the kid that shopped at Salvation Army. In high school, my friend, Logan, was the in-the-closet gay guy. Needless to say, he was an easy mark for hurtful words and opinions.
We were different. At the time, we were teased, called mean names, and made to feel less than the wonderful people we are. Now in our late-20's and early 30's, we've moved past that for the most part, but we can all tell you, it wasn't easy.
I came to a realization when I was about 16 or 17, that it was the "outcasts" who were the nicest people to be around. The "popular" kids just weren't my idea of good company. Of course, I still grappled with wanting to fit in, but that never panned out very well. It was the kids with eccentricities that I gravitated toward. And you know what? I still do! Jennifer, Karin, and Logan are all some of my oldest friends, and some of the most loyal and supportive. A few years ago, when I was going through a mental and emotional breakdown, all the "cool kids" (grown up "cool kids") deserted me, but Logan was always there. Day or night, he was there to listen to my emotional, irrational thoughts and ramblings. Probably because he knew what it was like to be abandoned for simply being who you are.
As a Christian, I take great comfort in knowing we are all made in God's image; we are EXACTLY who we are supposed to be! God doesn't make mistakes, and He makes us all look and act differently for a reason. Its not so that we can point out others' "flaws" (which to God aren't flaws anyway...they're part of His perfect creation), but rather to be unique; to bring a new "flavor" to this world, with different strengths, passions, skills, talents, and beauty.
So, so what if my daughter is shy?! It means she is a kind individual who thinks before she speaks mean words! So what if you have poofy hair and a loud laugh?! You are the life of the party - go infect others with it! So what if you are gay?! You are one of the most talented, comical people anyone will ever meet! So what if you aren't "normal" or "typical?!" You are YOU, you are DIFFERENT than anyone else on this planet, and you are BEAUTIFUL for it!! And NOBODY can rob you of that!! So go out into the world and rock who you are!! And if the bullies of the world don't like it, tough! They are the ones missing out on the beautiful person that you are!
(Anyone else feel like singing Christina Aguilera right now?!)